On April 21 I competed in the Pioneer Sprint Triathlon in Petersburg, Illinois along with several other Quincians.
This triathlon is part of the Abraham Lincoln Triathlon Series and consisted of a 300 yard pool swim, a 13 mile bike ride, and a 5k run. This was my fifth event of similar distance. I greatly enjoy the cycling and running. However, I have struggled with swimming. I am now feeling much more comfortable in the water and thus, I am improving.
I always start a race with a performance goal, frequently several. For this race, I thought if everything went perfectly I could finish in under one hour and 6 minutes: 6 minute swim, 30 second T1, 21mph bike, 30 second T2, sub-7s 5k. Considering this was not a priority race for me this year, I decided to take a bit of a chance. My plan was to go as hard as possible even at the risk of bonking. I wanted to see how far I could push my limits, or if I could find my limits.
We (I was accompanied by my lovely wife, Pat who was official photographer and my own personal cheering section) arrived early so I could register. Abe's Mini triathlon (a beginner event) was held before the sprint so we had to arrive a bit earlier to get in and out of transition and stay out of the way of those competitors. I enjoyed watching the race and the time waiting passed quickly. I placed all my gear in transition, checking and rechecking, looking around at everyone else's setup to get ideas. I had set up near the Quincy Iron Men right by the "swim in" and "run out" side of transition. It looked good to me and I trusted those with greater experience.
Bike: The fun part! I took off like a bullet. I wanted to get up to speed quickly....and dry off. It was quite chilly initially; I'm not sure if the temperature reached 60 degrees and it was windy--a cross wind on the bike route. The first several miles were mostly flat, then we hit a few rollers. My average speed before the hills was about 22mph. The hills slowed me down a bit. I passed one guy right away, then maintained my position. The best part of being a below average swimmer is passing people on the bike segment of the race. I generally do pretty well climbing and with my aerodynamic bike frame, I descend quickly too. So, I caught several people in the middle section of the course. My recovery times are great right now thanks to my winter training, so I continued to pass people when the course flattened out again. I was going all out; I don't think I could have gone any faster. I was actually a bit worried how I was going to perform on the run, but I was sticking to my plan. As I neared the end, I decided to take my feet out of my shoes before I stopped moving to save a bit of time. I was pretty sure I could do it safely. And, it went smoothly. My official time was 37:12 with an average speed of 21mph: goal achieved. And, nobody passed me. Well, anyone who did, I overtook again.
T2: Racked the bike. Helmet off. Running shoes on. Garmin on the wrist. Go! I struggled a bit here because my feet were numb after being wet and cold on the windy bike ride. Official time, 33 seconds.
Run: Starting the run with numb feet was a bit of a challenge, but I quickly found my stride. The runners were well strung out, but I started passing people right away. I looked at my average pace early on and saw that I was around 6:30/mile and decided to slow down a bit. I wanted to go all out, but didn't want to get crazy. The elevation map I saw before the race appeared to only have 2 hills, or the same one twice--it was hillier than that. I guess there were 2 major hills, but it was an out-and-back course. I descend pretty well and I've been doing a lot of hill repeats this year so far and it helped. I passed people up and down both hills. Around the half-way point we meander through a cemetery (where Ann Rutledge and Edgar Lee Masters are buried). Here, I was passed by one guy, but I passed him descending the hill just outside of the cemetery and didn't see him again. No one else passed me on the run. Through this section I was able to cheer on all my fellow Quincians as we passed each other. At the top of the last hill, I checked my pace which was somewhere under 7:00/mile and I picked up the pace a bit. Around the half mile to go point, I dropped the hammer with the intent to empty the tank and I finished strong. According to my Garmin, I finished at 6:48/mile, a 5k PR!
Official results: Swim 6:03; T1 0:32; Bike 37:12 (21mph); T2 0:33; Run 20:46 (6:42/mile); Total Time 1:05:07. I was 18th overall out of 133. 7th in my age group. 7 of the top 18 finishers were aged 40 to 44 years! Tough group. Of course, I was very pleased with my performance. I basically met all my goals and achieved some PRs. It was an opportunity to practice a few things, mainly transitions, that I hadn't done since last summer. I also learned a bit about myself: how hard I can push myself and how quickly I recover. Overall: a top notch experience.
Bonus: we received nice cotton t-shirts at registration and a hot meal of chicken and noodles and green beans after the race.